Posted on Jan 31, 2013

kenEtudes for Solo Guitar in 24 Keys by Ken Hatfield

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Etude #3 in D Major

by Ken Hatfield

This etude is the third in a series of twenty-four compositions I wrote over a two-year period for guitarists that study privately with me in New York City. They are composed for standard guitar tuning. Each of the twenty-four etudes is composed in one of the twelve Major or twelve minor keys. Etude #3 is reminiscent of the Tin Pan Alley songs of the 1920s and 1930s. Consequently, its rhythmic structure is based on an even 8th note / quasi-ragtime piano feel translated for solo guitar and designed for fingerstyle technique. This etude also employs harmonic devices idiomatic of ragtime music, such as the recurring augmented chord occurring on beat 3 of bar 1 (excluding the pickup bar) and on beat 4 of bar 5. With its characteristic additional leading tone (the #5th, in this case E#), which resolves upward to the Major 3rd of the chord which follows (the F# in the D Major chord), this augmented chord, along with the use of blues notes (b5 and b3), provides much of the harmonic flavor for the A sections within this etude’s A, A, B, A song form.

My primary concern in each of these etudes is its musical content. My approach to notating the music is rooted in the methods Brahms employed, especially in his late piano works, such as the intermezzi of Opus 117, 118, and 119. This approach strives to illustrate and maintain the polyphonic independence between the voices by accurately indicating each voice’s rhythmic autonomy and each note’s duration.

The fingerings were added well after the etudes were composed and, in fact, even after I recorded them.

These are not the only workable fingerings. I encourage guitarists to explore other possibilities on their own. My approach to fingerings focuses exclusively on the fingerboard and is a hybrid of Bill Leavitt’s, George Van Eps’s, and Andres Segovia’s methods, combined with my own additions. Consequently, each position is indicated by a Roman numeral, and the basic scope of each position is determined by where your index finger would naturally lie when placing your hand on the fingerboard, with each adjacent finger corresponding to the next three ascending adjacent frets. Reaches out of position are indicated by 1-S for an index finger stretch, and 4-S for a fourth finger stretch (à la Leavitt).

I use a vertical bracket to indicate a bar. The stems of each bracket encompass the range of the bar needed to cover the span from the lowest to the highest notes played by the bar. Brackets are generally placed to the left of the notes to which they refer. Coming from a jazz tradition, I’ve always used bars with any of the four fingers of my left hand, so you’ll see [2 and [3 and even [4, as well as the more common [1 in these pieces (à la Van Eps). I strive wherever possible to make the independence of the voices clear, but when more than two levels of time are required to fit in one treble clef, compromises are necessary, because you only have stems up or stems down to choose from. I model my approach to addressing this problem after the one Segovia used in his 20 Estudios of Fernando Sor, placing the fingering numbers wherever they can best illuminate the independence of the multiple voices within each piece. Since phrases and sometimes entire sections repeat in these pieces, when this occurs I don’t repeat the fingerings as well, as it is hoped that the player will recognize the repeated section or phrase and recall the fingerings previously employed. To help this recollection, I use a Roman numeral in parentheses [for example, (I), (II), etc.] to indicate such a repeated section and the position in which it was previously played. Lastly, I only use circled number string indications for harmonics and right hand tap notes, because if one knows the notes available in each position, a string indication is redundant, and there is already so much information on the page that further clutter would not serve the music or the player.

Though conceived for fingerstyle technique, the pickstyle player can play most of Etude #3, and if the fingers of the picking hand are used in conjunction with a flat pick, the pickstyle player can play all of it. I hope the readers of Just Jazz Guitar enjoy exploring the musical content of this etude and take the opportunity to consider an alternative to tablature for indicating fingering possibilities.

Ken Hatfield

etudesCoverEtudes for Solo Guitar in 24 Keys by Ken Hatfield is available as a book with companion CD, or as a CD alone.

This article originally appeared in Just Jazz Guitar (June 2009)

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